There is an alternative system to the UMF system of classifying the antibacterial activity of manuka honey. While it was understood that manuka honey was had special antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to name but some, the actual compound responsible for this remained a mystery until 2006.
A German research team led by Professor Thomas Henle at the Technical University of Dresden discovered that methylglyoxal or MGO was the compound that gave the honey its special properties. He went on to develop a system for testing the concentration of MGO in honey and this has become the alternative classification system.1
Professor Henle’s studies have shown that the quantity of MGO in manuka honey ranges from 20 to 800 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). This forms the basis of the numbering system so if your jar of manuka honey has 100+ it means that it contains 100 mg/kg of MGO.
Manuka Health New Zealand
Currently, one company in New Zealand produces MGO manuka honey. Manuka Health New Zealand has entered into a research agreement with Dresden University and they have developed a test certification system for manuka honey. The company has developed a brand labelled MGO Manuka Honey, which is tested according to system developed with Professor Henle.
Why different systems?
There is split in the manuka honey world about the two different systems: Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) and the MGO system. This is because those who favour the UMF system, including the influential Professor Peter Molan, believe that while MGO is the compound that is responsible for the antibacterial activity, it does not act alone and that there is a synergy between as yet unknown compounds and that the MGO method simply states the level of MGO in the honey.
Both systems give assurance for consumers
However, both systems indicate that the manuka honey you are buying has been tested for its special bacteria and so if the label on the jar says MGO or UMF you will have assurance that what you are buying is genuine and special manuka honey.